A group of Ottawa residents is taking the Ottawa Police Services Board to court with a charter challenge.
The coalition of community groups claims the board is violating their right to freedom of expression.
The group feels new measures and rules set out by the police services board are limiting the ability to raise concerns or question decisions and they believe that the board is trying to silence criticism.
“We are doing this to ensure people in positions of power are held accountable for providing oversight and adequate governance to policing agencies,” said Jeffery Bradley, with the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project. “Also, for hearing our pleas for justice and engaging in participatory democracy.”
The coalition filed a claim with the Ottawa Small Claims Court on Aug. 6, seeking more than $27,000 in damages.
The board passed new rules for public delegations in February after returning to in-person meetings, which included prioritizing new speakers and requiring delegations to submit their planned comments to the board in writing in advance. It also limited public delegations to an hour.
Board members said the changes were designed to ensure that they could be better informed about the issues speakers wanted to raise.
Members of the group filing the claim held a roundtable discussion Monday to answer questions from the public and the media about the lawsuit. One of the plaintiffs is Robin Browne, coordinator of the 613-819 Black Hub, a regular speaker at Ottawa Police Services Board meetings.
“Some of the restrictions seem to be clearly targeted at me personally,” he said. “The one where they said, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re going to prioritize people who haven’t spoken to the board in the last three months.’ A few of us speak there regularly, so that seemed to be targeting us directly.”
Browne has been involved in previous protests against the board’s policies, including one attempt to stop the board from proceeding with its agenda until his questions were answered, in which another public speaker sitting beside him played a tin flute in an attempt to drown out the board chair.
The coalition says it takes issue with virtual delegations no longer being allowed, the time limits imposed on delegations and the prioritization of new speakers over regular speakers.
The claims have not been proven in court.
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